There was once a Navy frogman named Jim Janos. Janos had successfully completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, and was assigned to Underwater Demolition Team TWELVE (UDT-12), back when Navy SEALs served in both SEAL teams and UDTs interchangeably. This was back in the early 1970s.
Like many SEALs, Janos was a tough and determined man, but he also had his weaknesses—like many SEALs do. He was scared of heights. He did not like high obstacles on the obstacle course, nor did he like parachute training on the training mock-ups, which were also pretty tall (and daunting). On at least one occasion, the officer in charge of UDT-12 had to basically kick Janos off the parachute trainer, as the latter froze up and refused to jump.
This is a pretty innocuous story. Normally, this author would not fear the repercussions of telling such a tale, since I would assume that most SEALs would view being the subject of such a story as just a part of being a SEAL. God knows there are plenty of unflattering stories out there about this author. Most of us have them if we are human (a rare few SEALs are not, I’m convinced).
However, telling this particular story gives me pause, because Jim Janos is now universally known as “Jesse Ventura,” former professional wrestler and former governor of Minnesota. And we all know that Mr. Ventura does not like being the subject of unflattering stories—especially when he claims they are false.
Mr. Ventura dislikes it so much, in fact, that he sued the widow of SEAL Chris Kyle, who had publicly named Mr. Ventura as the subject of an unflattering story in Kyle’s bestselling memoir, “American Sniper.” Mr. Ventura claimed the story was untrue, and that the telling of the story had ruined his reputation in the SEAL community. He won his court case against the Chris Kyle estate in district court.
On June 13, 2016, however, Ventura’s previous favorable district court ruling in that defamation case was thrown out on appeal. According to the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Star Tribune newspaper, the ruling was overturned by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals based on legal technicalities. Now, I am no lawyer, so I will not try to explain the ruling here, other than to say that the appeals court did not find Kyle innocent of defaming Jesse Ventura.
Rather, the appeals court ruled simply that part of the district court’s ruling was unfounded in Minnesota law, while another part of the ruling needed to be retried in district court, due to an improper statement made during the trial by Mr. Ventura’s attorney.
The important point here is that Mr. Ventura has an opportunity to call a ceasefire in this war against the widow of Chris Kyle. He does not need to admit defeat. He does not need to apologize. He does not need to back off his claim that Kyle defamed him. No, he is more than welcome to leave all those issues as is. A jury still decided in his favor, and his case against Chris Kyle was successfully made in a court of law. He will always have that.
What he can and should do, though, is state publicly that he is not going to pursue a retrial against the Kyle estate to prove all over again that he was defamed so that he can once again win a monetary settlement from the estate. This is Mr. Ventura’s chance to say that he proved his point, he cleared his name, and he is not pursuing further legal action simply to secure the financial award.
I think Jim Janos would have done it back when he was a UDT guy. I think he would have found a way to move past a fight with a fellow frogman. I think he would have been satisfied to win fair and square, and to let the matter drop. If not, maybe his officer in charge would have given him that friendly nudge off the proverbial platform, to do the right thing.
Mr. Ventura, please see this piece as the proverbial nudge, and let the matter drop.
(Photo by Jim Mone, Associated Press)